Friday, May 5, 2017

Nancy Harms "Ellington At Night"

In my world there's always room to be re-acquainted with the brilliance of a master, namely Edward Kennedy Ellington. Singer Nancy Harms is a new name to me, but she makes this Ellington set both personal and special. Whichever collaborator Duke chose, be it Billy Strayhorn, Irving Mills, Johnny Hodges, Bob Russell or any of a score of others, his melodies remain timeless and top notch. And Nancy Harms seems to understand that the highest compliment to the maestro is to sing his magnificent material with sincerity and without pretense. As the lyric to "Prelude To A Kiss states, "Though it's just a simple melody with nothing fancy, nothing much, you could turn it to a symphony, a Schubert tune with a Gershwin touch". And it follows that Harms applies just the right touch to this "Dukal" bill of fare. And you've gotta appreciate that she doesn't just play it safe with Duke's "greatest hits". When, for example was the last time you heard Duke's "Long, Strong and Consecutive", "Strange Feeling" or "Reflections"? These are joined by celebrated classics like "Lush Life", "I Got It Bad", "I'm Beginning To See The Light" and lots more. The accompanying trio of Jeremy Siskind, piano; Danton Boller, bass; and Willie Jones III, drums, is sly, subtle and superb. Harms has a tiny edge to her voice that communicates the essence of the lyrics to these unforgettable melodies. Oh, and before I forget, there's a bed of perfectly placed strings on a few tunes. Duke Ellington lives on and Nancy Harms does him honor.
Gazelle Records; 2016; appx. 52 min.

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